Top 103 Buddhist Tattoo Ideas [2020 Inspiration Guide]
To achieve a total immersion in Eastern spirituality, many meditative men decide on Buddhist tattoos. Like a koan, these permanent art pieces idolize the impermanent nature of reality.
A Buddhist tattoo reflects a calm worldview like nothing else. There are endless ways to envision this enlightened perspective on your skin.
In fact, almost anything can count as a Buddhist image when you look at it in a Zen way.
Of course, the likeness of Buddha himself typically comprises the most popular Buddhist ink creations. Siddhārtha Gautama is the sage that defined Buddhism, and his legendary image is synonymous with inner peace. Alongside his body, Shakyamuni’s teachings are often textually reprinted in ink.
The Noble Eightfold Path is one of several distinct options in this regard. These adages are sometimes inked in English, but they carry much more impact in Sanskrit or Pali. Japanese and Chinese are also poignant selections.
Many Buddhist practitioners report seeing visions during their meditations, and they often makes tattoos out of their transcendental experiences. By turning their encounter with nirvana into a tattoo, spiritually attuned guys can carry a permanent reminder of philosophical joy.
Check out these serene top 100 best Buddhist tattoos for men below to see what we mean!
Hotei, commonly referred to as the fat, or laughing Buddha, symbolizes the incarnation of Buddha linked to happiness, wealth, and general well being. Hotei is often characterised by a big belly, bulbous ears, and smiling face. This tremendous side tattoo incorporates the traditional elements of Hotei, bringing beautiful technique and detail into the depiction. The level of detail his clothing creates – small, well defined patterns and mandalas in a great range of color – in addition to the bronze cast of his features, is very well done. It’s a beautiful piece of body art.
Here, Buddha’s clothing is again cast in excellent detail, however it’s done by using negative space in counterpoint to the gray shading of the of focal point statue. The line work, crisp black and more subtle grays is a real highlight of the upper bicep piece. This form of Buddha, with the palm facing outward, is protective in nature.
This is a beautifully devised and executed Buddha sleeve tattoo. The artist’s design and technique are almost flawless, effectively balancing the dark, heavily detailed image with savvy highlights in white ink to give it clarity. The Buddha is almost a portrait, so incorporating the shade and patterned scales of the supporting dragon image gives the overall piece a balanced range of effects.
Stylistically this is a beautifully crafted tattoo balancing dark detail with negative space, but from a cultural perspective the Buddha is too far down the leg and could be considered insulting. Before getting work done with any religious connotation make sure to check out any possible issues your piece may trigger.
This excellent side and upper arm tattoo utilizes Japanese Irezumi to produce a pair of Buddhas, well supported by traditional style elements waves, flowers, and clouds. It must be unfinished, given the second Buddha (upper left arm) is in negative space. Given only the Buddha’s skin is left bare in the first image it’s like the clothing at least will be incorporated into the rest of the color scheme. The trio of snakes above the second Buddha represent Naga: life, death, and rebirth.
The different types of hand gesture Buddha makes are known collectively as Mudra. In this tattoo, the mudra is called the Dhyani, representing possession of a fully enlightened mind. The top hand – with thumb and forefinger touching lightly represents enlightenment. The bottom hand (if part of the tattoo) would remain horizontally flat and symbolize the world of appearances.
This meditation Buddha makes part of a beautifully conceived full arm sleeve. Here, a variety of images linked to Eastern culture – the Tiger, Buddha, and lotus are linked naturally by the shading skills of the artist. It’s a really fresh piece of black and gray style tattooing, with each main image shaded and patterned with different colors and technique. The tiger on the lower forearm is realistic in the representation of its fur coloring and texture.
Buddha and lotus combine here for an excellently scaled side tattoo. The artist has done well to make two images into such a large piece effortlessly. The head gear of the Buddha – alternating spirals of black line and and gray shade, is a very impressive pattern effect.
A beautiful sleeve tattoo. The combination of intense black dotwork and and negative space geometric style work well in combination for the new ink to provide the older Buddha with epic contrast. It’s an intense, and time consuming technique to provide alternate shading, but works brilliantly when achieved with this level of skill. Also enjoyable are the crisp black lines helping the negative space lotus petals pop off the other tattoos.
This small hand tattoo of Buddha is well drawn and incorporates the subject’s thumb very well into the context the ink, which represents the full enlightenment mudra.
Clever shading throughout this arm sleeve show the expert level of skill the artist called on to make it a clear, clever group of images. It’s scaled well, with the upper arm Buddha the focal point supported by other images designed to utilize color and shading around the subdued, highly detailed head of the deity. The soft powder blue/pink combination of color opposes the heavier gray black shading of cloud and smoke.
It took a bit of time to realize the clever application of shadow to create the Buddha at the top of this arm sleeve. Rather than be the feature part of the piece, the Buddha complements among the rest of the Japanese style shapes and shadows to form part of a powerful design.
Wow. A range of techniques have gone into the creation of this epic meditative Buddha. At the top of the sleeve tattoo, the artist has cleverly pitted light blue color against the combination of fat dotwork and ink splash. From there, Buddha himself is realized by clever manipulation of negative space. A dusting of light pink adds just enough color to augment, rather than neutralize the technique. Another batch of ink splash – this time in streaks – allows the upper half to meet with the abstract lotus images making the forearm part of the artwork. This is a funky tattoo designed with great skill and flair.
This is a well crafted chest tattoo. The Buddha is nicely etched, but the shading work surrounding his head are the standout with deft dotwork forming the core of the lotus, then an interesting striation pattern created from the line work technique of the petals.
Doubt there’s many space Buddha tattoos out there, but I could get behind it. This is a clever, unique piece of body art turning tradition aside without being disrespectful. Its a cool take on neo-traditional style. Really enjoy how the color scheme inter-plays with the negative space, making Buddha’s robe seem colored white.
A rich mix of classical portraiture technique and heavy duty geometric style in this half sleeve tattoo. The fuzzy shading – a thick gauge needle play on dotwork is a deft touch, however the classy, technically difficult line work production of the interlocking circles and triangles below Buddha’s head is the best feature of this tattoo. It’s like a beautifully deface maths notebook!
A tremendous full back tattoo in the ultimate gray and black style. Love this for many reasons, but juxtaposing the wide, serene, gently curving features of Buddha with the tightly packed, thrashing, heavily detailed madness of the dragon is a supreme piece of artistic flair. The images individually are fantastically different and expertly applied, but their contrasts meeting in such a way that makes it a masterful tattoo.
Another cool Buddha tattoo in the Irezumi style. The use of similar golden colors at either end of the piece – and the similarities between koi and Buddha’s headdress – help bookend this full sleeve artwork.
What an amazing use of blue ink and detail. The artist has turned convention aside by artfully utilizing black and gray shading technique with a variety of blue colors, shadow and directional pattern tattooing. The detail of the Buddhist Temple is sublime and made yet more interesting by its wonderful color palette. The temple makes Buddha look almost drab by comparison, although it’s effortlessly made to look carved from stone.
This Buddhist tattoo shows a beautiful display of balance between the circular and square shapes and simple patterns incorporated into the art. Love the restraint shown by limiting it to mostly single line black ink, only alleviated by occasional heavy gray fuzz and deep dotwork inside the square.
A brilliant tattoo symbolizing Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who represents the compassion of all Buddha. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings destined to become Buddhas who hold off on the final stage to help humans instead. Love the willingness of the artist to take on such a technically difficult tattoo and produce it on the largest possible section of human canvas. Having that many arms to produce, and needing them to be individual yet collectively similar in form, shows a degree of skill most tattooists would struggle to replicate.
Big time black and gray Buddha. Like the different sense of scale in this piece – large, thick lines and features, large swathes of gray, even large accompanying imagery. It’s a cool sleeve tattoo.
Now this is what contrast is all about Love it, love it, love it! Everything about this tattoo is smart, and exceptionally well executed art. The contrasting brightness in color and intensity of blue versus red. The Buddha versus Demon. Twin triangles when joined making the square. Even the image being split across both arms shows artistic commitment on a macro level. Well done!
With balance underpinning the fundamental tenets of Buddhism it’s good to see that ethos applied to Buddhist tattoos. The original gray and black art – the Buddha on the right and temple on the left – have now been linked into a better balanced, full chest piece by cleverly incorporating a lotus, and maroon/black shadow work to bridge the gap between them. You could go further than just the center by add more maroon to counter fill out the furthest parts of the original tattoos.
This tattoo features a well delivered core idea by creating a heavily detailed, bright mandala sun and then using it’s brightness for the Buddha’s color scheme was a bold, effectively realized idea. It makes the whole piece stand out from other Buddhist body artworks. Giving Buddha a time lapse sense of sunlight across stone makes a cool contrast from one side of the image to the other.
This Buddha tattoo does a good job with space and shading. Like how it uses the filigree stonework on edge to create a barrier against more back tattoo work without sacrificing the theme. The Chicano style lettering the top is a bit of an encroachment but it’s not too much of a worry.
An enjoyable Irezumi style chest tattoo that relies on clear, crisp shading of gray and black, and savvy cross directional negative space to create a fresh temple tattoo. It’s not ostentatious, but the impact is greater from how cleanly it fits together and is delivered.
This Buddha is taking a nap – helping people on their path to enlightenment must be tiring. Enjoyable negative space tendril lazily weaving through this sleeve tattoo. Give a cool sense of otherness to the fundamental heavy gray of the full image and lightens the art somewhat.
Great application of colored ink in this Irezumi sleeve tattoo. The artist could have happily made this a bright canvas, but instead has deftly threaded various colors through the sleeve to acts as contrast to the head of Buddha focal point.
It’s cool when just one color is deployed in a large scale piece and pops right out from the excellent artwork surrounding it. Red does that in this full upper body tattoo. The cherry blossoms, bridge and lotus and bridge are unique shapes within the totality of the Buddhist scene that brightly coloring them make clear highlights. Given the difference in font style to the rest of the Eastern influenced tattoo you would have to think the quoted “Make the most of life” was a pre-exiting text tattoo.
Buddha is the only facial image in this full sleeve tattoo. It works effectively from a style perspective by giving the artist free rein to incorporate a range of Geometric shade styles and bordering shapes into the body art. Really like the backdrop created behind Buddha’s head with those intense circular shapes.
An amazingly in depth and intrepid full arm sleeve tattoo. The expert usage of contrasting negative space and dark ink turn this into a masterpiece. Love how the artwork drops small, intense licks of pink color into the image at various points to lighten the style elements down a notch. The forearm temple with negative space moon backdrop in itself would be high art, however the piece just keeps flowing to wherever the eye can see.
Love this portrait of the happy fat man Hotei, who was supposedly a Japanese fellow from the distant past that achieved Nirvana and a spot in the Buddha line up. This wicked tattoo is Hotei framed to emphasize his jollity and magnanimous spirit. Carrying this around on your skin can’t give you anything but good vibes!
The upper arm Monkey King of this tattoo looks pretty upset, although he’s well incorporated into the Buddha tattoo to be able to calm down. This is clean, crisp tattooing, the artist has a great grasp of applying direction elements and shapes to alleviate issues with sameness of color. Also really like the three small splashes of pink from the flower petals to take just a bit of focus off the dark images elsewhere.
This is a wicked torso tattoo. Love the intertwining of mandalas outside of the central Buddha image. He’s simple, reasonably spare in detail and effects. They’re bustling, busy and heavily detailed. The fundamental similarity in mandala shapes are alleviated by excellent use of directional changes in shadow and pattern, no different in application to metal cogs are in a simple engine.
This unfinished sleeve tattoo is reminiscent of the great, green Daibutsu in Kamakura Japan. Love how the jade color works off the gray focal point. It will be interesting to see what other color flourishes are employed, particularly as the piece moves up further along the arm behind Buddha’s head. The artist’s use of a lot of white highlight ink is also a nice touch – it helps again with balance and scaling.
Another unfinished work, this differs from the last tattoo due to the huge commitment of negative space technique throughout the tattoo. The section of wrist shading – a hybrid, fat gauge shading closely related to dotwork – contrasts well in the cross hatches of unblemished skin while in other areas the negative space is used to lighten the heavy tone of the overall piece.
A tremendous full sleeve tattoo. It’s so clean and fresh. The artist has been able to expertly go gray without compromising much in the way of shadow. There are small, light pieces of negative space technique – check the eyes, nose and upper lip – employed throughout the Buddha to ‘make up’ the gray masterfully, while the swirls employed behind the temple set a beautiful, flowing tone.
What does a Buddha symbolize?
The ideal for an individual practicing Buddhism is to attain wisdom, or Bodhi. Bodhi combines intellectual, moral, and spiritual achievement through practise, reflection, and meditation. The word Buddha means ‘the enlightened one,’ or knower.
Buddha Tattoos are deployed to reflect your personal values and indicate your willingness to work towards achieving Bodhi. They are simple inked applications meant to symbolize balance, peace, and serenity while representing your personal identity.
Buddha tattoos are becoming more popular in Western society as exposure to the tenets and teachings expands. Buddha tattoos have increased in number as well. Unlike other religions that have distanced or limited themselves from body art, Buddhism has no issues with tattoo art.
Tattoos of Buddha – not unlike other popular ink motifs such as the Om – should to be inked above the waistline so as not to cause offense. Tattoos on the legs or feet can be considered insulting to Buddhist religion, so cultural awareness dictates this needs to be accounted for when getting work done.
Consider instead getting your Buddhist symbol tattooed as high up on the body – shoulder, upper bicep, neck, and even head – as you can. This indicates your Buddha is as close to the heavens as you can possibly make it, therefore giving it a better chance to be considered a good omen.
What is the meaning of the mandala tattoo?
Mandala means circle in Sanskrit and symbolizes balance, eternity, unity and perfection. The mandala is a key motif in Hindu and Buddhist religions with it commonly representing the universe and can also be described as ‘the center of surroundings’ or ‘sacred circle.’
Mandala patterns and pictures start at a central point then radiate outward in a circle, with a variety of other images or patterns making up the whole. They are often very intricate, detailed sets of pictures that when drawn together make for aesthetically pleasing tattoos that many people respond to on a deeper level.
In western culture Mandalas are used to promote balance and harmony. This idea extends to mandalas becoming a spiritually linked method of tattoo, body art, and peace in general.
Mandalas are often used to promote a sense of peace, calm, and tranquillity which is often useful in yoga teachings, meditation practise and various methods used to relieve stress while presenting a wide range of versatile meanings.